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Comet

Trail Information

A 337 ton sidewheel steamer, was built in 1848 at Portsmouth, ON by shipbuilder George N.Ault. She was unique as she was powered by 2 'walking beam' type steam engines with a 51" piston. She was a passenger steamer used by travellers, but after a few short trips she struck a shoal in the St. Lawrence and sank. She was raised, repaired and put back into service. In 1949, a burst steam pipe seriously injured 3 Irish firemen, two of them fatally. Then, in 1851, after being damaged by a boiler explosion during her departure from Oswego NY, she was rebuilt and renamed 'Mayflower'. One gusty spring evening in May 1861, on her first voyage of the season, the steamer left Kingston for the last time. Strong winds were out of the southwest as she cleared Nine Mile Point off the westerly end of Simcoe Island. The Comet altered course toward Timber Island under Captain Francis Paterson to give wide berth to 3 sailing ships on the horizon. An hour later, the Comet and the schooner 'Exchange' collided when the Exchange attempted to run for safe harbor from the storm. Both ships attempted to stay close to help out the other, but the wind took the schooner out of hailing distance. The Comet kept its steam engines running and, in an attempt to make shore, managed to travel to within 2 miles of Simcoe Island before the captain had crew and passengers abandon ship in lifeboats. Two crewmen were lost trying to bail out the large yawl which the Comet towed astern. The survivors were set safely ashore on Simcoe Island, while the Comet sank about 1.5 miles off the Island in about 90 ft of water.  She was rediscovered on September 7, 1967.

Difficulties

Intermediate

Directions

2 miles off Simcoe Island, Lake Ontario, Canada

The Comet lies in 90 feet of water, with her paddlewheels still upright, though much of the top decking has collapsed. For those trained and experienced, penetration below deck is possible at the stern for a view of the boilers and the engines. Good buoyancy is important as silt can be stirred very quickly making it difficult for the next diver to see. There are also some places and cups left on the decking, completing the underwater museum. The Comet is a spectacular example of ships of her time and is a special favorite of divers who visit her. Of consideration to the recreational diver is time because of her depth. There is little current on her, and visibility is usually 20-50', with upwards of 80' in the spring and fall.